Australia’s Worst-Ever Cyclone

Alright, so, today I want to talk about Cyclone Tracy.

So, obviously today’s expression was about the word storm or had the word storm in it. So, I thought, you know, what could I do about storms in Australia? And I thought about the severe cyclone storms that Australia gets every year in the monsoon tropics. This is the part of Australia in the north, above the Tropic of Capricorn, right? That goes through, roughly, halfway through Australia and separates the south from the north so, to the north of Australia cyclones hit the coast all the time whether it’s in the Northern Territory or Queensland, they get cyclones each year. Cyclone Tracy was a tropical cyclone though that made landfall on Christmas Eve and Christmas day in 1974 and it devastated the city of Darwin in the Northern Territory in Australia. So, really tragic, because… not just because it was such a devastating storm, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. It arrived on Christmas Eve and it, you know, destroyed Christmas Day as well for all the people there. So, it was the most compact cyclone storm to have ever occurred in the Australian basin and southern hemisphere, with gale force winds extending only 48 kilometres from the centre. So, outside of 48 kilometres from the centre of the storm, the eye of this storm, the gale force winds dropped off which is very weird. That’s a very small, compact, concentrated storm. So, this made it the smallest-ever tropical cyclone worldwide until the year 2000 and I think 7, 2007, 2008, when Tropical Storm Marco broke the record with gale force winds extending only 19 kilometres from the centre, massively compact storm.

So, Cyclone Tracy first started as a storm that formed over the Arafura Sea. And then it moved southwards and affected Darwin with category four winds. The highest sustained winds during this time were up to 205 kilometres an hour with gusts nearly 250 kilometres an hour, right? That’s crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever… I’ve never been in a car that’s driven that fast. That’s insane.

And so, these storms, I guess, they form over the warm water in the tropical areas and then when they hit the land they start to dissipate, but they build up all that energy from the warm water in the oceans. And that happens around the tropics.

So, Cyclone Tracy completely devastated Darwin and it killed 71 people and many thousands of people were injured. In 1974, the cost of the storm was $837 million dollars in damage, which today is more than $6 billion dollars. Initially, after the storm 65 people were killed, were found to have been killed, with six missing and it was only in 2005 when the Northern Territory Coroner proclaimed that the six people that were still missing had perished at sea. So, this cyclone knocked down more than 70 percent of buildings in Darwin, including 80 percent of people’s houses.

And if you search for Cyclone Tracy in Google images you’re going to see the full extent of this cyclone’s destruction. It’s just insane. Everywhere is flat it looks like those photos you see of the U.S. when a massive tornado has gone through a town.

So, 25,000 of the 47,000 inhabitants of the city were made homeless prior to landfall of this cyclone and they were evacuated. Most of Darwin’s population got evacuated to places like Adelaide, Whyalla, Alice Springs, Brisbane, and Sydney and many of these people actually stayed in these cities and never returned after the storm. After the storm had passed and people had assessed all the damage from the storm, the city was eventually rebuilt using more stringent standards to cyclone code so that, hopefully, in the future, the city would be more cyclone-proof and you would prevent any of this sort of destruction to the same extent in the future.

So, that’s the story of Cyclone Tracy, guys. It was a very small and compact storm that hit Australia at a very unfortunate time, during Christmas, in 1974 and it killed 70 people making it the deadliest storm in Australian recorded history, as far as I’m aware.

So, if you come to Australia, I’m sure that if you mention knowing information about Cyclone Tracy the average Australian here is going to have heard of that cyclone and if they were alive during 1974, they may have even been there.


A gust – a sudden strong rush of wind.
A massive tornado – a huge mobile, destructive vortex of violently rotating winds having the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud and advancing beneath a large storm system.
An inhabitant – SO who lives SW
As far as I’m aware – so far as I know
Assess ST – evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of ST
Build (ST) up – increase (ST).
Compact – closely and neatly packed together; dense.
Couldn’t have been worse – as bad as ST could be.
Cyclone-proof – unable to be affected by cyclones.
Deadliest – most likely to cause death.
Devastated – destroyed or ruined.
Dissipate – (with reference to a feeling or emotion) disappear or cause to disappear.
Drop off – reduce
Evacuate SO – remove (SO) from a place of danger to a safer place.
Form over ST – develop above ST.
Gale force winds – incredibly strong gusts of air.
Hit SW – reach SW.
Homeless – not having somewhere to live.
Initially – at the beginning.
It’s just insane – said to show you are surprised, impressed, or shocked at something.
Knock ST down – hit or impact ST and cause it to fall down.
Make landfall – to reach land after a journey by sea or air.
Perish at sea – die whilst sailing on the ocean.
Prior (to ST) – before (ST).
Proclaim ST – announce officially or publicly.
Rebuild ST – construct ST again.
Recorded history – a historical narrative based on a written record or other documented communication.
Roughly – approximately; not precisely
Severe – (of ST bad or undesirable) very great; intense.
Smallest-ever – most tiny to ever exist.
Southwards – in the direction of south.
Standards – something used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations.
Stringent – (of regulations, requirements, or conditions) strict, precise, and exacting.
Sustained – continuing for an extended period or without interruption.
That’s crazy – That’s impressive, shocking, surprising.
The full extent (of ST) – the complete extent (to which ST occurs).
The monsoon tropics – the regions near the equator that experience two distinct seasons per year, wet and dry seasons.
The Tropic of Capricorn – the parallel of latitude 23°26ʹ north tropic of Cancer or south tropic of Capricorn of the equator.
Timing – the choice, judgement, or control of when ST should be done.
To cyclone code – to the suggested construction criteria for withstanding cyclones.
Up to (a number) – reaching (a number).